The impact of Butler County’s heroin epidemic on children has officials committed to finding funds to resurrect the county’s family drug court.
Bill Morrison, director of Children Services, told the Journal-News that he and a group that includes Rob Clevenger, Juvenile Court administrator, and Scott Rasmus, executive director of the mental health addiction services board, plan to pursue grants to restart the court that is aimed at improving the well-being of children by providing their parents with access to drug treatment.
“There was complete consensus to move forward on the project,” Morrison said. “Now it’s just a question of pulling in the funding to do it.”
Butler County previously operated a family drug court from 2007 until a $2.5 million federal grant expired in 2012.
Clevenger said the group is still in the fact-finding stage so they don’t have any firm budget numbers. Part of those efforts included a trip to Clermont County to see its family drug court in action.
Angie Livesay, who coordinates Clermont’s program, said the county has been running the specialty docket for three years.
“We could always be serving more than we have,” she said. “It is not easy to get people to sign up for voluntary court … A lot of people think genuinely that they can do it on their own but unfortunately they sometimes can’t. … a lot of people walk out of their court hearing and have no clue what to do and need direction. That’s where we step in.”
Those who participate in Butler County’s family drug court would have regular meetings with magistrates and judges, frequent drug testing and access to drug addiction treatment services.
According to Clevenger, 54 percent to 55 percent of the files opened at Children Services involve drug addiction — and heroin is usually the drug of choice.
“When you go into the family drug court … it is a holistic approach to support you and your efforts to get clean and be able to re-unify with your child,” Clevenger said.
As the group hones in on the model they want and determine the demand for the services, Morrison said they are starting to work on grant applications.
“There are case management services for the clients that are in the drug court and we’re going to maybe look at doing an RFP (request for proposals) to service providers who provide those case management services,” Morrison said. “So they bill as much as possible to Medicaid.”
The group expects it will need a program coordinator and another magistrate.
Livesay said Butler County should have little trouble securing grant money.
“There’s a lot of money available for programs like ours,” she said. “Because people believe that they work and the rates of recovery for people when they are in a Children Services case are so low, I think they are just reaching out to do whatever they can.”
Clevenger said he hopes the program can be operational by the summer.
“The need is there yesterday,” Clevenger said.